Changing Your Trajectory. It's Just Physics.

In 2012 I had an amazing business coach.  His name was (and still is) Lex Sisney and I feel grateful to know him and learn from him.  He helped me see the world in a different way, in a bigger way, in a less “my perception equals the facts” kind of way.  And for that I appreciate him.  Lex wrote a book called Organizational Physics which I encourage everyone to get their hands on.  He uses theories of physics to explain how organizations gather energy to achieve their goals, dissipate entropy, and build the organizational structures that will yield results.  But there is one physics related word that that has been in my mind lately and that word is:  TRAJECTORY.

As many of you know, my family and I moved to Costa Rica six weeks ago.  We took a month of language learning, put our kids in school, found a house to rent, made some friends, and I started working on working on the next chapter of my life.  This has been an intentional trajectory change and it has opened up a new world of exploration and opportunity that I never would have uncovered had I stayed on my same flight path.  The universe is large.  Our world is large.  There is a lot explore.  I’m not sure everyone has to move to another country to test trajectory but understanding that it can be changed and being intentional about changing it can create a bigger perspective which is in reach for all of us.

A trajectory in physics is a flight path of a massive object in motion through space as a function of time.  That flight path is a function of:

  • Gravity - the force that attracts the body to earth
  • Launch Speed - distance divided by time
  • Launch Angle - the vertical angle relative to the horizon 

To change the trajectory, one or more of these variables needs to change.  Don’t worry, this isn’t going to turn into a Newtonian post or an exercise in how to win Angry Birds.  But the point is that these are the variables that matter.

If you went outside and threw a ball right now, you would find that the trajectory forms a parabola.  It ascends to a peak (the apogee) and then descends.  And we tend to go through life throwing the same ball with the same trajectory over and over again.  But what if we wanted to throw it higher or further?  First we would need to have the intention of wanting to do it.  Then we would need to build the systems and processes and prepare to do it.  Then….we would need to do it. 

Changes you make to your launch speed or angle will put you in a different part of space.  It is not better or worse per se, but it will change the way you think about your life, your business, and your relationships.  When we are young, trajectories are institutionalized.  Education, first job, first relationships, moving out of your parents house – these are embedded trajectory changes that are known and expected. 

But why does it feel that our trajectory stays constant once we reach a certain age?  In fact, as we get older, we have more resources to change the trajectory, but we tend to offset that with “responsibility” which magnifies the gravity in the equation.  In business, our trajectory often feels hard to change because to change speed or angle requires that big object in motion (that is often complex and distributed) must get into a form that can change, or it won’t.

So what if this year the word that you kept top of mind was TRAJECTORY?  It could be in business. It could be in health.  It could be in your personal relationships.  But what if you changed the angle?  What if you changed the speed?  What would you need to do different, not a little different, but different enough to get into a new solar system and see just how big your world can really be.